S2 111s or S3 220/Sprint
I currently own an S2111s its the latest in a long line of Elises which have included many different variants both S1 and S2, some purchased brand new, some used. April this year was the 20th anniversary of my first Elise and with my current car being an 02 I thought I’d take a look at what the latest incarnation is like with a view to a possible new purchase.
I’m no driving God, and I’m certainly not a motoring journalist, I’m just someone who has a passion for Lotus cars and in particular the Elise so I thought I’d pass on my thoughts.
Some might agree, some will no doubt take me to task, the following are just my opinions on the cars. My Elise these days is used on the road, mostly in the more secluded areas of Mid/North Wales, but we also use it for holidays in the UK and occasionally Europe, sadly track days are few and far between at the moment, but I’ve done a good few over the years.
First impression of this Sprint is how good it looks in Exige Orange, the carbon fibre pack, which gives you carbon front access panels, seats, roll bar, and bootlid are added to help keep the weight down. I liked the rollbar cover, and access panels, but have to say the bootlid gives the impression of trying a bit too hard, I also worry about it’s longevity dropping it from a very high level being the unformed way to close the boot as opposed to pushing down on it, and the seats although they are extremely comfortable the top of the headrest curves at quite an angle back into the car, I’m 6’1” and if I relaxed back into the seat I found the top edge cut into the back of my head, this would worry me in the event of an impact even at low speed, having said that when in a normal driving position the seats are very comfortable and feel wider than those in my 111s.
The car also has the black pack which basically gives you black wing mirrors and a black transom, something that I’ve never been fond of, it looks better on the Sprint than some others but wouldn’t be on my wish list, I also like the “old” 4 rear light set up more too.
My 111s had a full suspension refresh less than 5k miles ago, I went with quantum zeros from Elise parts and I’m very happy with them, the Sprint uses Bilsteins and you notice the difference in ride straight away, the car rides out small potholes and rough surfaces really well, I’m not sure if that’s due to the springs that have been used or the sound pack that this car had fitted, perhaps this is something Lotus have done to make up for today’s poorly maintained tarmac, either way it irons out rough surfaces and small potholes like no Elise I’ve ever driven, even to the point that I could relax my “pothole eagle eye” by about 30%, that buttock clenching clang as you hit a missed pothole has somehow disappeared.
A 5:30am blast along Military Road Isle of Wight also gave an indication as to how the car handles when you get chance to push it a bit, I’ll run out of talent way before the Elise does, but happy to report that it’s everything you expect in the ride and handling dept and loved the fatter 195’s on the front. Oh, and those wheels, no longer available apparently which is such a shame.
Which brings us to performance. I’ve got to say that I was a bit disappointed with the Sprints performance, I don’t doubt it’s probably quicker than my 111s but somehow the refined way it gets to motorway speeds detracts from the sense of occasion I’ve come to expect from Elise’s, to the uninitiated it still feels like your going very quickly even at low speeds, perhaps I was expecting the Sprint to be considerably quicker but it’s not, or at least it doesn’t feel like it is, and that was a let down for me, it’s here that I noticed the added weight more than anywhere too although if I’m honest the extra weight in the car is noticeable everywhere when you sit and think about it, from its pothole riding abilities to the Golfesque “Thunk” of the door as you get in and out, it does make for a quality feel though, okay not quite a Golf but you know what I mean.
The interior of the Sprint really is a plush place to be, only the ribbed floor plates in front of the seats remain uncovered giving a glimpse of the aluminium chassis, everything else is covered and adorned with alcantara and leather all stitched with body coloured orange stitching, new cubby holes in the front dash are a great idea, with a USB port in the passenger side. The exposed gear sector mechanism is probably the most noticeable addition to the interior, I think it looks fantastic and is something that adds to the already talked about quality feel, the gear change less so, its certainly improved but still not in the same league as an MX5.
I thought I’d miss the iconic Stack speedo set up but the rev counter and speedo are clear and nicely done with an lcd temp readout that can be scrolled through to give outside temperature, speed kph, water temp etc, and also includes what seems to be a more accurate fuel gauge.
The passenger footrest has gone! much to the annoyance of my 5’2” passenger as too has the drivers footrest, and Lotus please please sort out some decent indicator stalks, like all previous incarnations they feel like they are made of cheese and will break at any moment, such a let down on what is otherwise a fantastic place to be, and if you spec cruise control there’s no chance of chopping them off and replacing with aluminium stalks like I and so many others have on previous cars. This Sprint had a bluetooth headunit which is £400 cost option and A/C, neither of which I’d spec.
Finally, The Sprint is no longer available as a new purchase you have to go for a 220 Sport and to spec it to the same level as this Sprint your looking in the region of £52000, my reason for taking the car for an extended test drive was to see if the 220 SC was for me as the Sprint is basically the same car.
The Sprint is a fantastic car, its more refined than my car, probably quicker(slightly) certainly rides todays roads better, out of the box its better built too, so many things I really liked about it, yet there are some bits I didn’t like, and some of those can’t be specced out.
All in all, was the Sprint a better car than my 111s the answer is yes, it is, is it £20/30k better than my 111s then no I have to say it isn’t. If I didn’t already own an Elise I’d be buying a 220 Sport or better still I’d buy this Sprint, as it is I’m going to have to turn the Eagle eye pothole detector back up and have to put up with clenching the old bum cheeks occasionally.
Many thanks to Michael Taylor at Snows Lotus Hedge End who arranged the test drive and patiently answered my one thousand questions.